Pakistan's tweeters take on the state

"Just spoke with ████ from the ISI. He tells me that ███&#

Pakistan has 1.9 million twitter users and since the start of the year it has become a major channel for dissent, comment and dark humour against the grinding ISI state.

For those picking their way through the complexities of good guys and bad guys in an opaque country, it has also become a way to support and pay tribute to the Pakistanis who risk their lives to defend the ordinary citizens. It is a way to circulate articles including this in the New York Times by the Martha Gelhorn award-winning editor Umar Cheema, who was picked up and tortured by the ISI, and to swap high-spirited news and gossip.

Ali Dayan Hasan of Human Rights Watch , Pakistan, on the unsung security forces who take the brunt of extremist action: "True Heroes -- security guards, police, soldiers at the frontline -- & their families who endure such suffering. Pity about those who command them." Omar Waraich continues: "I've lost count of how many heroic Pakistani security guards have given their lives stopping terrorists killing more people".

The daily repression, torture and murder of Baloch nationalists, unknown in the west, is constantly and pithily documented. Mohammed Hanif, author of A Case of Exploding Mangoes, put out the murder of a distinguished intellectual and academic "Brilliant Balochi scholar, a very popular teacher at Balochistan University , built a library wth his own money. Prof Saba Dashteyari killed" and days later: "Slain Dr. Saba Dashtiari's room sealed, writings taken, flowers removed". Abbas Nasir, former editor of Dawn: "Abrar Hussain killed in Quetta today represented Pakistan in Olympics boxing. Stop killing Baloch nationalists and deal with these murderers". A Balochi tweets: "Pakistanis u'll never knw what Prof Dashtayari meant. 4 u its another man killed-for us an institution has closed its doors".

It's also become a medium in which high profile tweeters can see off the ISI in a way precluded by regular print, online and broadcasting, some areas of which are infiltrated by the agency itself. On the way to be interviewed on Dunya tv in Islamabad after a long run-off with the ISI, Syed Saleem Shahzad was picked up and killed. A Pakistani tweeted: "Dunya TV has very 'rogue' elements within it too, btw. I will not be surprized if SSS's assassins were tipped off abt the show".

Not best known for its brainpower, the ISI struggled to master the tweet but now apparently has a bevy of guys and gals bothering the media in return, even if it is still not quite bright enough to understand that dubious tweets are flushed back out into the public domain. One riled a well-known and outspoken young liberal broadcaster who replied: "No, you pathetic cretin, I do not hate Pakistan . I love the country and it's people. Hate the ISI for it's dangerous duplicity!" Sideways to a friend: "What's intersting about X is have you seen his posts and blog he's clearly not an ordinary person if you get my drift. Hmm."

Best of all is the terse satire the medium has spawned:

"Whoa!! ISI warns journalists to not defame Pakistan 's "Sensitive agencies"!! I have medical qweshun: Can dicks...".

"Just spoke with ████ from the ISI. He tells me that █████ is in Quetta . █████ in Karachi . And Elvis is in █████ "

Pakistan's best tweeters:

Ali Dayan Hasan, Human Rights Watch: @AliDayan

Abbas Nasir, former editor of Dawn: @abbasnasir59

Shehrbano Taseer, humanitarian campaigner: @shehrbanotaseer

Omar Waraich, journalist: @OmarWaraich

Raza Rumi, journalist: @Razarumi

Majorly Profound, satirist: @majorlyprofound

Mohammed Hanif, award winning novelist: @mohammedhanif

George Fulton, television producer: @GeorgeFulton1

Nadeem Paracha, columnist and satirist: @NadeemfParacha

Catriona Luke is a freelance writer and editor.

 

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Pity the Premier League – so much money can get you into all sorts of bother

You’ve got to feel sorry for our top teams. It's hard work, maintaining their brand.

I had lunch with an old girlfriend last week. Not old, exactly, just a young woman of 58, and not a girlfriend as such – though I have loads of female friends; just someone I knew as a girl on our estate in Cumbria when she was growing up and I was friendly with her family.

She was one of many kind, caring people from my past who wrote to me after my wife died in February, inviting me to lunch, cheer up the poor old soul. Which I’ve not been. So frightfully busy.

I never got round to lunch till last week.

She succeeded in her own career, became pretty well known, but not as well off financially as her husband, who is some sort of City whizz.

I visited her large house in the best part of Mayfair, and, over lunch, heard about their big estate in the West Country and their pile in Majorca, finding it hard to take my mind back to the weedy, runny-nosed little girl I knew when she was ten.

Their three homes employ 25 staff in total. Which means there are often some sort of staff problems.

How awful, I do feel sorry for you, must be terrible. It’s not easy having money, I said, managing somehow to keep back the fake tears.

Afterwards, I thought about our richest football teams – Man City, Man United and Chelsea. It’s not easy being rich like them, either.

In football, there are three reasons you have to spend the money. First of all, because you can. You have untold wealth, so you gobble up possessions regardless of the cost, and regardless of the fact that, as at Man United, you already have six other superstars playing in roughly the same position. You pay over the odds, as with Pogba, who is the most expensive player in the world, even though any halfwit knows that Messi and Ronaldo are infinitely more valuable. It leads to endless stresses and strains and poor old Wayne sitting on the bench.

Obviously, you are hoping to make the team better, and at the same time have the luxury of a whole top-class team sitting waiting on the bench, who would be desired by every other club in Europe. But the second reason you spend so wildly is the desire to stop your rivals buying the same players. It’s a spoiler tactic.

Third, there’s a very modern and stressful element to being rich in football, and that’s the need to feed the brand. Real Madrid began it ten years or so ago with their annual purchase of a galáctico. You have to refresh the team with a star name regularly, whatever the cost, if you want to keep the fans happy and sell even more shirts round the world each year.

You also need to attract PROUD SUPPLIERS OF LAV PAPER TO MAN CITY or OFFICIAL PROVIDER OF BABY BOTTLES TO MAN UNITED or PARTNERS WITH CHELSEA IN SUGARY DRINK. These suppliers pay a fortune to have their product associated with a famous Premier League club – and the club knows that, to keep up the interest, they must have yet another exciting £100m star lined up for each new season.

So, you can see what strains and stresses having mega money gets them into, trying to balance all these needs and desires. The manager will get the blame in the end when things start to go badly on the pitch, despite having had to accommodate some players he probably never craved. If you’re rich in football, or in most other walks in life, you have to show it, have all the required possessions, otherwise what’s the point of being rich?

One reason why Leicester did so well last season was that they had no money. This forced them to bond and work hard, make do with cheapo players, none of them rubbish, but none the sort of galáctico a super-Prem club would bother with.

Leicester won’t repeat that trick this year. It was a one-off. On the whole, the £100m player is better than the £10m player. The rich clubs will always come good. But having an enormous staff, at any level, is all such a worry for the rich. You have to feel sorry . . .

Hunter Davies’s “The Beatles Book” is published by Ebury

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 29 September 2016 issue of the New Statesman, May’s new Tories